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Airlines Show Improvement In On-Time Performance And Baggage Handling In January


WASHINGTON - In January, U.S. airlines posted numbers for on-time performance and baggage mishandling that showed improvement over December but were not as good as those posted one year ago, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Air Travel Consumer Report which was issued today.

According to information filed with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), a part of DOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), the 20 airlines reporting on-time performance with DOT recorded an on-time arrival rate of 73.1 percent in January, up from December 2006’s 70.8 percent on-time rate but down from January 2006’s 78.8 percent mark. These carriers also recorded a rate of 8.19 reports of mishandled baggage per 1,000 passengers in January, an improvement over December 2006’s rate of 8.93 but up from January 2006’s 6.93 rate.

The monthly report also includes data on flight cancellations and the causes of flight delays, as well as on consumer service, disability and discrimination complaints received by DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division. This report also includes reports required to be filed by U.S. carriers of incidents involving pets traveling by air.

Causes of Flight Delays

In January, the carriers filing on-time performance data reported that 8.34 percent of their flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 8.15 percent in December; 7.88 percent by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 8.96 percent in December; 6.74 percent by factors within the airline’s control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 7.80 percent in December; 1.13 percent by extreme weather, compared to 0.97 percent in December; and 0.06 percent for security reasons, compared to 0.10 percent in December. Weather is a factor in both the extreme-weather category and the aviation-system category. This includes delays due to the re-routing of flights by DOT’s Federal Aviation Administration in consultation with the carriers involved. Weather is also a factor in delays attributed to late-arriving aircraft, although airlines do not report specific causes in that category.

Data collected by BTS also show the percentage of late flights delayed by weather, including those reported in either the category of extreme weather or included in National Aviation System delays. In January, 45.54 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, down 5.50 percent from January 2006, when 48.19 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, and up 8.20 percent from December when 42.09 percent of late flights were delayed by weather.

Flight Cancellations

The consumer report also includes BTS data on the number of domestic flights canceled by the reporting carriers. In January, the carriers canceled 2.5 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, up from January 2006’s 1.7 percent rate but below December 2006’s 3.0 percent mark.

Incidents Involving Pets

In January, carriers reported four incidents involving pets while traveling by air, down from the seven incidents reported in December. The January incidents involved two deaths, one injury and one loss.

Complaints About Airline Service

In January, the Department received 752 complaints about airline service from consumers, down 9.3 percent from the 829 complaints filed in January 2006 but up 24.5 percent from the total of 604 received in December 2006.

Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers

The report also contains a tabulation of complaints filed with DOT in January against specific airlines regarding the treatment of passengers with disabilities. In January the Department received 28 disability-related complaints, down 36.4 percent from the total of 44 received in January 2006 and one more than the 27 received in December 2006.

Complaints About Discrimination

In January, the Department received 10 complaints alleging discrimination by airlines due to factors other than disability – such as race, religion, national origin or sex – identical to the number recorded in January 2006 and one more than the total of nine received in December 2006.

Consumers may file their complaints in writing with the Aviation Consumer Protection Division, U.S. Department of Transportation, C-75, Room 4107, 400 7th St., S.W., Washington, DC 20590; by e-mail at; by voice mail at (202) 366-2220 or by TTY at (202) 366-0511.

Consumers who want on-time performance data for specific flights should call their airline ticket offices or their travel agents. This information is available on the computerized reservation systems used by these agents. Detailed flight delay information is also available on the BTS site on the World Wide Web at

The Air Travel Consumer Report can be found on DOT’s World Wide Web site at It is available in “pdf” and Microsoft Word format.



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